Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

It's been a challenge finding much time for games over the past few weeks, but hopefully I can get some larger chunks of play time.

What I've been playing:
Gear of War 2 - Almost finished with the single player. I doubt I'll play much multi-player online although I'd love to try out the co-op.

Fallout 3 - This was the only thing I played for a long time. It's between this or Metal Gear Solid 4 for my personal game of the year. I can't wait for the DLC!

What I hope to play:
Yakuza 1&2 - New video of Yakuza 3 for the PS3 (create a Japanese PSN account, it's not hard) have me super psyched. I'm about 2 hours in on the first Yakuza and it's great.

Persona 3 FES - I played about 20 minutes (the shortest amount of time before the first save point I think) and it's super cool. If I ever manage to finish this, I will pick up Persona 4 right away.

Valkyria Chronicles - I was bummed to hear this didn't sell so well, but I'm glad I paid full price to support this game. The demo on PSN is so damn good!

What's on your holiday playlist?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recent gaming

It sounds like a lot, but all this game playing was spread out over the last month and a half or more:

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow/Order of Ecclesia – I finished this last week in anticipation of Order of Ecclesia. Dawn’s reputation as a top of the line Castlevania is very well deserved. I decided to skip over Portrait of Ruin because I was so excited to get to Ecclesia and the verdict so far is…I need a break from this type of game. I’ll come back to it later, maybe even start over too.

Fallout 3/Little Big Planet – If all goes well with shipping, I should have Fallout 3 and LBP in my hands tomorrow. Even with the great reviews, I’m very worried if Fallout 3 will do it for me because Oblivion bored me. It does sound like the story is much better and game is more focused so fingers are crossed. I was really in the mood for LBP last week, this week not so much. I’ll pop it in for a quick taste when I can.

Wii Music – Amazon was handing out $20 back for buying Wii Music, so at $30, I took a chance. My mom seemed to like it ok, but the wife was not digging it. The mode everyone did love was Hand bell Harmony, but you can only unlock five songs for it. I gave the game a shot, but it has since been resold.

Rock Band 2 – I didn’t play much of Guitar Hero III (difficulty balance was way off for me) and completely skipped the original Rock Band. I guess that made me really want to get back into something and Rock Band 2 is fantastic. I’m playing with the wireless guitar from GHIII right now and want some drums badly. Guitar Hero World Tour Band Kit is on my Christmas list so hopefully Santa will let me get my drum on over the break.

Valkyria Chronicles – Downloaded the demo the other day and liked it a lot. The free movement and manual aiming are interesting mechanics for a tactical RPG. The game was already high on my wanted list and this demo pretty much sealed the deal.

Future prospects
There are way too many games to check out, but it would be great if I magically had the time (and money) to play the new Prince of Persia, FarCry 2, Gears of War 2, Quantum of Solace, Tomb Raider Underworld (demo is out today!), Dead Space, and Mirror’s Edge. As a super dark horse candidate, the PS3 Naruto game looks damn good. I know nothing of the anime or manga. All I know is the PS3 Naruto looks exactly like a controllable cartoon. It's not just the graphic quality, it's how the characters move and react to your input. And it’s mostly a fighting game and I like me some fighting.

Monday, October 13, 2008

GBA surgery

I’ve always wanted to use the classic NES GBA SP more, but the screen was just so much darker than the newer SP model. I still have a good number of GBA games and prefer to play them on a proper GBA instead of the DS.

After a quick bit of internet research, I found it was possible to transplant the innards of the newer SPs with the NES GBA. Although the focus of this article I found is about removing the guts in order to paint the shell, it was still invaluable since it included photos and very good instructions.

All told it took me a good hour to delicately replace the screens and circuit board (you can’t just replace the screens or it won’t work). I also switched the batteries to be on the safe side. If you plan on doing this yourself, definitely refer to that link in the paragraph above. You’ll also need to order a Y-screwdriver (don’t pay more than $6 shipped). Other bits of info I can share from my experience is that re-connecting the screen to the circuit board is very delicate work.

I’m super happy with how everything turned out. Highly recommended!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Throwing the PS3 some love this weekend

The PlayStation 3 has been giving me the stink eye due to all the PS2 software that's been purchased recently. Even though it's a 60GB model and can play these games too, I prefer to use the PS2 Slim for this purpose.

To make ammends, two packages are enroute as you can see above. I've read great reviews of the pic quality of Nightmare (one of my all-time favs) and was just waiting till they lowered the price closer to DVD levels. 

A friend brought over the original Buzz quiz game for the PS2 a year ago and it was a huge hit at this house. Ever since, I've been waiting for the PS3 version with wireless remotes to get released. It came out this week, just in time for company that's coming over this weekend. Yay!

(Amazon Note: In case you were wondering, I'm enrolled in Amazon Prime, the 2-day free shipping program. Stay away from it if you are a compulsive shopper like me!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

PS2 Fever + Metal Slug face-off!

I still can’t believe Sega actually released Yakuza 2 here so I did my part and picked it up right away. Also tracked down a new copy of the first Yakuza for good measure. Now it’s just a matter of either playing through them now, or waiting till Yakuza 3 gets released in order to get the full experience. I’m thinking this upcoming Christmas break is the ideal time. Maybe Thanksgiving.

In case you haven’t heard, the controls on Metal Slug Anthology Wii suck. All the options they give you are unsatisfying. Luckily the PS2 version was marked down to an affordable $20, which happened to be what I was able to get for the Wii version. Score! 

I didn’t take a picture of it, but I also picked up Singstar 90’s which was also on sale at Amazon for like $18. I really should just upgrade to Singstar PS3 and have all the songs on the hard drive, but it’s hard to pass up the song per dollar value of the PS2 Singstars. I wonder how many other Singstar owners are also putting off the upgrade?

Been playing the import version of Metal Slug 7 (so far, very good) and wanted to visually compare it to the other original creation for a portable, Metal Slug Advanced. Why? Because I’m a big nerd who obsesses over these things is why. As you can sort of see from this side-by-side photo, the characters and objects are slightly larger on the GBA version. Slug definitely “feels” more like an arcade game though. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Best Xbox Live bargain ever

Rearmed has secured a place in my top ten games of 2008. It’s challenging, long, rewarding, looks great, fun, etc. There’s not much more to say other than that the 800 points it costs is a fantastic bargain. Remakes of side-scrolling 2D action with “new” 3D graphics are usually earmarked for the PSP. I would have skipped Rearmed on the PSP at the most likely initial price of $29.99 and waited for it to hit $19.99…or maybe skipped it entirely. Regardless of what might have happened on the PSP, I would not be playing it as maniacally as I am now for one simple reason – online leaderboards.

I can’t tell you how many hours have been spent re-playing Challenge levels to shave split seconds off my best time to topple a friend’s score. Last I checked, only one person on my list has completed the entire game so that is my next goal. 

I’ll also play Geometry Wars 2 every now and then, but it just raises my blood pressure too much. Haven’t gotten around to checking out Braid, but I did purchase Castle Crashers. Just a minute into the demo had me sold. I really wish it was disc-based because I’d love to be able to take it over people’s houses or bring it to work because it’s so much more fun playing four players in the same room. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

PSP? Hmmm maybe… (UPDATE)

Last year I sold off my launch PSP with the intention of buying the PSP Slim once it was released, but I ended up getting rid of all the games and pretty much abandoning the platform. It was always in the back of my mind though that I would jump back in if there ever was a really radical redesign, like adding a second analog stick.

The PSP-3000 has very few new features, but it boasts one that is dear to me-a better LCD screen. To be more specific, it is brighter, has double the color gamut, has five times the contrast ratio, and double the response time. How that translates to real world improvements in the visuals is yet to be revealed, but it sure sounds hot.

Tempting, but what's really tipping the scale is the announcement that a new Parasite Eve game, Third Birthday, is coming to the PSP. I’m quite the Parasite Eve fanboy even though the first two games were average at best.

For my travels, my iPhone and DS have me pretty well covered, so it would really take several more big things to make the new PSP a must have. Of course if the screen really does look insane…

That is a pretty snazzy comparison pic. The new PSP is the one on the bottom. Courtesy of

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Catching up

I greatly desired the original iPhone, but the high price was just too much. Now the price is right even though the data plan eats up the savings. At least it’s spread out. I was lucky that I only had to wait a little over 2 hours on launch weekend to get my 3G iPhone and it was a brisk 5 minutes to activate. I use the damn thing so much! Now they just need to release better games and I’ll be set.

This is somewhat old news, but I beat Metal Gear Solid 4. Absolutely loved it. I actually started another game to fully explore the levels and unlock more items. I have yet to try MGS Online, but it sounds neat and they already released an expansion that lets you play as Meryl! The expansion did cause some crashes with the system, so it’s probably best to wait a bit before jumping in.

Aside from MGS 4, the remainder of my gaming is all about Soul Calibur IV. I’m totally addicted to unlocking new items for character customization/creation.

I’m very excited Power Pro is back again this year. I’m planning on picking up the PS2 version (can’t beat $19.99) and perhaps the DS version when it’s released later this month. The PS2 will be used for quick pick-up games at the house while the DS is going to be more convenient for me to enjoy the deep Success, Season, and MLB Life modes when traveling or similar situations.

I’m also very happy that the PS2 in general is getting some great support. The PS3 plays my games just fine, but I just really still enjoy using the PS2 slim. While it’s nice that most of the top franchises make a latter gen appearance (Call of Duty, Bond, Tomb Raider), it’s the niche titles like Eternal Poison and Persona 4 (basically anything from Atlus) that are most appealing. I’m also looking forward to Yakuza 2 (yay for Japanese language with English subtitles!), Samurai Shodown anthology, and most any other SNK collection they can manage to release. There are also no shortage of titles already out that I haven’t picked up yet like Rule of Rose and Persona 3 FES. Great games for affordable prices!

Friday, June 27, 2008

MGS, DS and Genesis!

Started Metal Gear Solid 4 on Father’s day and now I’m in the middle of chapter 2. Love it so far. I kind of skipped GTA 4 since it seemed like it would be a much larger time suck than MGS 4, but hopefully I’ll get to it sometime this year. After MGS, the only thing I want to play is Soul Calibur IV (wow lots of fours this year).

The DS has come in handy for recent travel. Played little bits of:
- Izuna Unemployed Ninja (great character art, very tough dungeon crawler, may play again)
- Touch the Dead (decent, probably won’t “touch” again)
- Meteos Disney (The sound effects are not as compelling as the regular Meteos and the Disney tunes are a bit too subtle for my tastes)
- Sonic Rush (The most satisfying one out of the bunch. Exactly how I wanted a pseudo 3D Sonic to play. Fast action and wild level designs. Excellent)

The PlayStation 2 has become my go-to retro machine thanks to Taito Legends 2, Capcom Classics, and the SNK Arcade collection. These collections are also massive bargains compared to paying $5+ for single titles on the Wii or Xbox Live. Over the weekend I added the Sega Genesis Collection to the group. It’s been on my want list for a while so it was great to finally grab one. It’s a fantastic group of titles and they all have supplemental trivia, tips, and box art. Lots of good unlockables like the arcade version of Altered Beasts and developer interviews. I think there are like 28 games included, but you’ll get your money’s worth just for Shinobi III and Phantasy Star IV alone. (Shinbo screen taken from Console Classix)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Baseball cards and dried fruit

So what’s been going on? It’s kind of all over the map. So in no particular order, some other random stuff since the last post:

Dried fruit – I don’t know why, but I was eating a lot of it for awhile. Pineapples, papaya, whatever. I think that craving has passed mostly.

Subway’s Pastrami sandwich – I haven’t eaten at Subway regularly in years, but their new pastrami is great. The combination of decent hot pastrami and loads of subway veggies is quite pleasing.

Baseball cards – I was cleaning out my stuff from my mom’s house and happened across a ton of my old baseball cards. On paper (and according to some grading sites) I have some decently valued cards, but they can be had for far cheaper online. eBay is the real bellwether of card value and it appears the industry still has not recovered from the crash in the early 90s. It does put what cards I find most valuable in perspective. Even though the values have gone way down, my favorite cards are still my Will Clark rookie collection. You gotta collect what you like and not chase after players as an investment because you never know.

Rummaging through all those old cards got me in the mood to check out some new cards. I picked up a few packs of 2008 Topps and Upperdeck. Although they were all very shiny and nice looking cards, that same magic just wasn’t there. Then I decided to try out buying specific players. Bought a quartet of Ichiro rookie cards (Upper Deck, Donruss, Bowman, Topps) for pretty cheap. Like Will Clark, Ichiro is one of my favorite players and the value of the cards doesn’t matter to me. Looking at the Ichiro cards finally did bring back the good baseball card feelings. After that mini-spree though, I think I’m done for awhile. I might start buying some more whenever Kaz is old enough to be interested in baseball cards. He’s certainly going to inherit a decent stash of older cards from me. Maybe at least a handful will be worth more than $10 by then.

Monday, March 24, 2008

PS2 lives on

Persona 4 was recently announced in Japan…for the PS2! There’s definitely a part of me that is quite happy to see big releases continue on the platform. I still keep around my PS2 slim (it’s just too cool looking to get rid of) and it has plenty to keep it spinning. For domestic releases, I have on my radar Persona 3 Fes, Arcana Heart, SNK Arcade Classics vol. 1, and Yakuza 1 & 2. That’s not counting the few PS2 titles I still have to get to on the shelf.

I’m probably most looking forward to the SNK Classics collection. I sold my NeoGeo home system a while back (got it used for under $100 in Japan) so it’ll be great to play these games again and at a stupendous bargain price. Hopefully the emulation is good.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

HD film festivals and pricey tech

Clive Owen wasn’t in Bourne Ultimatum, but I wanted to watch the trilogy in order and he was in the first one.

After that, the Children of Men HD-DVD I had on Netflix for seemingly forever finally got sent. Fantastic movie. Will probably purchase it whenever it moves to Blu-ray. After that, Shoot’em Up on Blu-ray arrived. This was also another minor miracle as most every newish Blu-ray disc on Netflix is tagged “Very Long Wait”. The movie is quite enjoyable if you can turn your brain off and go along for the ride. It’s definitely not for everyone though.

By the time I got to Inside Man, it struck me that I’ve seen a good amount of Clive Owen in a short time frame. An accidental CO film festival if you will. I saw Inside Man in theaters and have been wanting to re-watch it at home to see how much held up. It totally does and I like it even more now.

If you haven’t seen any of the above, all are highly recommended except for Shoot’em Up. If you only had time for one, I’d go with Children of Men.

iPod Touch 32GB
Apple today released a 16GB version of the iPhone and a 32GB iPod Touch. I’ve been very tempted by the Touch and 32GB is the minimum happy point in terms of storage for a video device. Both of the higher capacity models weigh in at a honking $499 which is about $200 more than I feel comfortable with. Finances are totally baby-driven now so there is no way I could make it work anyhow.

The good news is that this totally sets up a much larger upgrade and price adjustment for both the iPhone and Touch for later this year.

The Cool
I’ve been taping random stuff so I have things to watch in the middle of the night for baby feedings and fussy times. Bullit has been playing on the Universal HD channel, so I took that in last night. The movie oozes style from the very first frame. The film has a deliberate, lazy pace punchuated by a jazzy score and of course the legendary car chase scene. Even now the car chase is impressive and the realness of the danger is impressive. Actors don’t come any cooler than Steve McQueen and he carries an otherwise uneven movie. Maybe I should do a Steve McQueen film festival next?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pure Love

I became a father for the first time earlier this month to a bouncing baby boy. The amount of love I feel for him is indescribable. It’s been hard going back to work and not seeing his face and holding him and trying to figure out why he is crying at any particular time.

My late father didn’t spoil me much (my mom on the other hand is another story), but one thing he would never deny me was books. As a writer, he obviously loved books and had tons of them. He even bought me comic books on a regular basis, since in Japan, they are read by people of all ages and not viewed as junk literature. One thing that was hard for me to get either of my parents to buy me was videogames. For one, they were expensive and two, I’m sure it all looked like a waste of time to them.

This won’t be a problem for my son. He’ll have plenty of access to games and I can’t wait till he’s old enough to play some with me. I’ll know which ones are appropriate for his age and what is not. Of course if it turns out he doesn’t like games much that’ll be fine. Who knows what kids will want to do with their free hours in the future. Probably something that looks like a waste of time to me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A quick one

Short thoughts:

Blade Runner 5-disc collection on Blu-ray –You don’t need me to babble on about it with all the rave reviews out there. Suffice it to say I’ve watched my older DVD copy at least a dozen times and the older theatrical cut on VHS at least as many so this collection was Xmas in a box.

New American Gladiators – Love it. They might have kept too many of the older games, but the tougher eliminator is good stuff.

Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles – It’s not the best game in the world, but I was super obsessed with getting S rankings on every stage.

Video camera – I might be needing a new video camera soon. Leaning towards a hard drive model and it will have to be HD. CES is happening just in time. New models = lower prices for existing stock.

New computer? – My plan is still to wait till StarCraft 2 actually comes out before committing to a new computer since I don’t want to pay much for it. The only snag will be if Apple unveils a touch enabled Mac Book. I have a super cheap refurbished Tablet PC I’ve been using to mainly just read comics/manga (check out Marvel’s Digital Comics!) and I love the form factor. So basically I’m looking for a larger iPod touch, except it’s a real computer. If they manage to release one this year, I’m totally in.